UAW car workers President Ron Gettelfinger last Thursday lifted the lid just a little on the lives of tens of millions of US workers, and on how their American dream has given way to a nightmare.
Dealing ‘just’ with the issue of workers’ health he pointed out that
• In 2007 America’s health care bill is expected to be $2.2 trillion, the highest in the world.
‘•We have 47 million Americans with no health care and millions more who are underinsured.
‘•Infant mortality – the US ranks 27th in the world.
‘•Life expectancy for women – we rank 30th in the world.
‘•Life expectancy for men – 27th in the world.’
He asked: ‘When we look at what’s happening in other areas of America today, we can’t help but ask: Is our country headed in the right direction?’
The richest capitalist country in the world is bottom of the list of the advanced capitalist countries, and behind a number of developing countries, as far as basic health criteria are concerned.
Gettelfinger added: ‘According to the latest government data, income for the average American family was lower in 2005 than it was in 2000 . . .
‘While wages and incomes for working families are stagnant or falling, the price of groceries is going up by double digits.’
With a national minimum wage at around £3 an hour and with the average family income falling rapidly, no wonder two million homes in the US will be repossessed this year, as the ‘sub-prime’ mortgage industry goes into melt-down!
Gettelfinger added: ‘Because of decisions made by business owners and government officials, plants have been closed. Communities have suffered. Lives have been shattered.
‘And now, we are paying a huge price . . .
‘To take just one example, it’s going to be a very unusual Christmas this year in America. Because we do not value and protect our manufacturing industries in this country, we are now in a situation where 80 per cent of the toys sold in America are made in China.’
The American dream has been destroyed by US capital chasing super-profits worldwide, and by the growing and deepening crisis of capitalism whose centre is the financial collapse and the growing slump in the USA.
The latest shock is the announcements by the Big Three – GM, Ford, and Chrysler that if they do not get what they want they will quit the US entirely and move into Eastern Europe and Asia.
The Big Three want wage levels reduced from $27 an hour to 14, and have been successful in this wage cutting drive in GM and Ford, aided by mass sackings, the closure of up to 30 plants and then by a mass of new hirings.
The motor car bosses are however not limiting themselves to wage cuts, they want all health care provision taken out of union negotiated contracts.
To achieve this they are willing to hand billions of dollars to the UAW car workers union to set up a VEBA (Voluntary Employee Benefit Association) trust so that the union, not the employer, is responsible for the provision of health care through the investment of funds in the lowest paid, but most profitable industries worldwide.
That this is criminal activity for a trade union to undertake is obvious, as is the sheer stupidity of this operation in a period of capitalist collapse!
Yet the UAW bureaucracy is supporting the project, just as it has negotiated the wage cuts and the mass sackings.
The entire US trade union bureaucracy has been unable to defend a single job, fight closures and stop wage cuts. It is still a slave of the Democratic party and thus is incapable of fighting for a national health service for US workers.
However, there is not the slightest doubt that the time is rotten ripe for the development of a US section of the Trotskyist International Committee of the Fourth International in the US.
The US working class will quickly rediscover its revolutionary tradition of mass strikes and occupations that launched the big general trade unions in the darkest days of the 1930s.
The fiction of the American dream will be replaced by the reality of the struggle for the American socialist revolution, led by a section of the Fourth International.